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Obituary: Michael M. Mueckler, professor emeritus of cell biology & physiology, 67

Expert in blood-sugar control was associate director of diabetes center

August 5, 2021

Michael M. Mueckler, PhD, a professor emeritus of cell biology & physiology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, died July 14 of natural causes at his home in Creve Coeur, Mo. He was 67.

Mueckler studied how the body regulates blood sugar and how this regulation goes awry in diabetes. His focus was on how sugar is transported into cells. He identified and studied several glucose transporter molecules, uncovering key insights into glucose homeostasis and insulin resistance. Among other accomplishments, he led breakthrough studies of insulin resistance caused by HIV protease inhibitor therapy.

“Mike was an outstanding citizen of the department who had leadership roles not only in his science but in graduate education and faculty recruiting,” said David Piston, PhD, the Edward Mallinckrodt Jr. Professor and head of the Department of Cell Biology & Physiology. “He was generous with his time, and even as he was moving to emeritus status, he maintained an active service portfolio for the department and the Division of Biology & Biomedical Sciences.”

Mueckler served as the associate director of the university’s Diabetes Research Center for a decade. During that time, he encouraged the diabetes research community to adopt genomics techniques that enhanced understanding of the disease. In 1998, he received the Lilly Award for Outstanding Scientific Achievement from the American Diabetes Association, the highest accolade given by the association.

Mueckler earned his bachelor’s degree in microbiology in 1976 and his doctoral degree in oncology in 1983 from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. After postdoctoral training at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he joined Washington University School of Medicine in 1986 as an assistant professor of cell biology & physiology. He retired in 2019 as a professor emeritus.

Mueckler is survived by his daughter, Sita Upadhyay; former spouse and good friend, Paula Hartman; a nephew, a niece and their families. At his request, no memorial services were held.

Memorial contributions may be made in his memory to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.